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Opinion: Litter along I-985 is worse than what you can see
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Traffic moves along I-985 Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at the Wade Orr Road overpass in South Hall. The Georgia Department of Transportation has shelved the proposed widening project of the road. - photo by Scott Rogers

I would like to add to the story that appeared in the March 20 print edition of the Times, a story by Robbie Sequeira headlined “Hurdles to keeping I-985 litter-free; Law enforcement, community groups limited in scope of highway cleanup.” 

Most people think of litter as a soda can or a burger wrapper. Those are the items that tend to be most noticeable to motorists zipping along at 70 miles an hour. 

The reality is much, much worse. I have walked sections of Interstate 985 beyond the mowed strip and a distance into the tree line. This is still within the legal right-of-way as marked by occasional markers that delineate the right-of-way edge. 

In the trees, the “litter” is far worse than in the mowed strip where occasional cleanup takes place. In the woods are items such as tires, 5-gallon buckets of lubricants, 55-gallon drums of unknown chemicals and large concentrations of plastics, everything from drink bottles to car bumpers. The best way to describe the trash in the trees is a linear dumping ground. Trash is washing into streams and waterways, polluting water that drains into the lake, our community water source. 

In the past, I have organized large cleanup efforts on National Forest land, so I have some idea of what would be involved in cleaning up just a mile of this linear dump. My guess is that it would take 30 people a weekend’s work to pull all of this junk back up to the road, per mile on one side. A dump truck and a loader would also be needed. 

We tend to look at litter as the stuff a prison crew can pick up while just walking along. In reality, that is just the easy stuff. A real cleanup is a much bigger and much more expensive process. 

As the article points out, this is exclusively a DOT responsibility that they choose not to allow others to assist with. 

Is it unreasonable for us citizens and taxpayers to insist that DOT actually does the whole job and removes all the trash that is not only in their right-of-way but also comes from the fact the roadway caused it?

Andrew Colaninno

Flowery Branch

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